Veteran sportswriter and high school football expert Robert Wilson is doing the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard predictions column each week during the high school football season on teams from Hinds, Madison, and Rankin County. Wilson had a 23-3 record last week (88.5 percent) and has a 197-60 record (76.6 percent) for the season.

            Madison Central (5-3) at Starkville (6-2)

       The last two state champions in the highest classification of the MHSAA meet Friday night in a key Class 7A, Region 2 game.

       Madison Central won the Class 6A state championship two years ago with a 13-1 record and won its last 10 games, defeating Brandon 24-17 in the state title game. The Jaguars defeated Starkville 34-12 in the semifinals at Starkville. Starkville gave Madison Central its only loss with a 35-28 decision in Starkville in the fourth game of the season.

Starkville won the 6A state title last season with a 12-2 record and won its last eight games, defeating Brandon 48-32 in the state championship game. Madison Central handed Starkville its first loss after winning the first four games of the season with a 41-21 decision at Madison.

It’s interesting that each team beat the other team for the past two seasons when it won the state championship.

       Starkville lost only eight games from 2020 to 2022 and three of those losses were to Madison Central.

       Madison Central coach Toby Collums, who played at Smithville High, Itawamba Community College and Mississippi College, has a 103-50 career record in 13 seasons as a head coach, including a 26-8 record in three seasons at Madison Central. He was named the PriorityOne Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Coach of the Year in 2020 after leading Northwest Rankin to a turnaround season, improving by six wins, had a 9-4 record and won a second-round playoff game for the first time in school history.

       Starkville coach Chris Jones, who played at Noxubee County High and Jackson State, has a 118-30 career record – an outstanding 79.7 winning percentage – and two state titles (one each at Kemper County and one at Starkville) in his 11 seasons as head coach. He has a 73-18 record in his seven seasons in Starkville.

       Madison Central’s top players are quarterback Jaiden Johnson, wide receiver Ryan Dulaney, running back Glenn Singleton, tight end Micah Jones, linebackers Ryan McCall, Rickey Banks and Jameson Moseley and cornerback Denym Mitchell.

       Starkville has four players – quarterback Trey Petty, wide receiver Braylon Burnside, running back Jay Stevenson and offensive lineman Si Thomas – who are playing in all-star games after the season. Petty and Burnside will be representing Mississippi in the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star Game in December in Hattiesburg. Stevenson and Thomas are playing for the North in the Bernard Blackwell-Star Classic in December at Gulfport.

       Starkville is one of three teams in Mississippi with two players rated in the Top 23 recruits in the Class of 2024 by 247 Sports composite.

       Burnside, a Mississippi State commitment, is rated the No. 7 player in Mississippi and No. 13 athlete in the country. Petty, an Illinois commitment, is rated the No. 23 player in Mississippi and No. 49 quarterback in the country.

       Madison Central doesn’t have any players in either all-star game for probably the first time in decades.

       Both Madison Central and Starkville are in second place in the region with 1-1 records, behind Tupelo, who is 3-0. The winner would be in good position to get the No. 2 seed and a home game in the first round of the playoffs.

       Starkville 28, Madison Central 14

       In other games (winners in bold):

       Forest Hill (4-5) at Jim Hill (2-7), Thursday, Hughes Field

       Lanier (2-7) at Wingfield (1-8), Thursday, South Jackson Field

       McComb (9-0) at Raymond (5-3), Thursday

       Murrah (6-3) at Koscuisko (5-3), Thursday

       Pelahatchie (2-7) at Raleigh (7-2), Thursday

       Pisgah (3-6) at  Puckett (7-2), Thursday

       St. Andrew’s (4-5) at Richland (5-4), Thursday

       Velma Jackson (8-0) at Nanih Waiya (3-6), Thursday

       Canton (3-5) at Gentry (5-4)

       Columbia Academy (3-7) at Clinton Christian Academy (5-4)

Germantown (4-5) at Clinton (1-7)

       Jackson Academy (7-3) at Hartfield Academy (11-0)

Madison St. Joseph (4-5) at Jackson Prep (7-3)

       Madison-Ridgeland Academy (7-3) at Presbyterian Christian School (3-6)

McLaurin (1-8) at Noxubee County (5-4)

       Meridian (5-4) at Brandon (6-2)

       Northwest Rankin (5-3) at Petal (3-5)

       Park Place Christian Academy (3-6) at Tunica Academy (6-2)

Pearl (6-2) at Oak Grove (7-1)

       Provine (5-4) at Natchez (4-5)

       Ridgeland (3-5) at Neshoba Central (3-5)

       South Jones (2-7) at Florence (6-3)

       Terry (5-3) at Hattiesburg (6-2)

       Warren Central (6-2) at Callaway (4-5), Hughes Field